Jerzy Grotowski used to describe his workshops as ‘encounters’. It’s an interesting word, used to describe a meeting with a stranger which can turn hostile. We ‘encounter’ the wild animal for example. It’s a meeting, a collision almost, which allows for, even assumes, different subjectivities, different agendas. Yet it can result in profound engagement, in the removal of the daily mask, in rediscovering that which exists behind the mask. Being mauled by a wild animal will remove the mask of course, but if the encounter does not turn hostile, it can lead to a powerful connecting between people, a connecting which has a spiritual element. It is the area which gurus explore so it can turn into charlatanism, or chaos; yet at the same time, it is the stuff of life.
A couple of mornings ago there was a discreet knock on the door and Kennedy Warne re-introduced himself. A neighbour had brought him along a couple of weeks ago for Kennedy is writing an article for National Geographic on the Paparoa Track (I discovered later that he co-founded the magazine). We’d chatted about that but he’d returned, for he was interested in Grotowski. We talked about the mutually admired film, My Dinner With Andre, that classic encounter in a New York restaurant between an actor trying to pay the bills and a theatre director who has just returned from a Grotowski encounter in a Polish forest. We talked of conservation and local people needing to earn a living and whether the compromise is only possible for hunters and gatherers. We talked of the inherent instability of capitalism and swapped favourite authors. We talked about living in a decadent age and the difficulties that brings. It was wonderful discovering a common consciousness with someone who was still a relative stranger. Then he had to go to record his slot for the nine to noon show.
The encounter left me buoyant, but as well, with the realisation of the flaws of the internet flow of information, where the encounter is easy, but a parody; for the digital filter replaces the flesh and blood of encounter, the physical meeting of the stranger or the glancing into the eye of the wild animal which acknowledges nothing of human consciousness and which is therefore terrifying. Presence is absent and this absence starts to become a totality.
Younger generations of progressive politicians talk a lot about ‘having conversations’ and about ‘going forward’, two clichés (and every generation has its clichés) which supposedly facilitate post modern diversity. But the inherent suggestion that differences can be easily solved feels like sleep walking.
I prefer to take the risk of the encounter.